Refrain define

A refrain is one or more phrases or lines in a poem or song that repeatedly occur in a specific pattern to become a controlling ballad or defining fixed forms structural factor. Here the readers will find refrain examples and also its use in poetry.

Originated from the French word ‘refraidre’, which means to repeat.

Refrain define

A refrain is one or more phrases or lines in a poem or song that repeatedly occur in a specific pattern to become a controlling ballad or defining fixed forms structural factor. This literary device is of great antiquity as it is found in the Egyptian Book of the ‘Dead’, ‘the Bible, Greek and Latin verse, Provencal and Renaissance verse and ballads. Often it is considered similar to ‘repetition’. It usually appears at the end of one stanza or when a poem is divided into different sections. It is sometimes used to break stanzas in a poem.

What is repetition?

When a poet repeats any word, phrase, line or sentence, it creates stress is called repetition. For example, in the poem “Leisure”, the poet uses “No time” repeatedly to stress his idea. However, the reader can easily observe that nothing about time is mentioned in the poem. Perhaps, he is saying that he has to work more and no time is left.

Refrain V. Verse

‘Verse’ is an arranged writing with a metrical rhythm, normally having a rhyme.

‘Refrain’ is a poetic device that repeats at regular pauses in different stanzas. However, this repetition may include minor changes in its wording.

Functions of Refrain

Following are the functions of the refrain:

  • To create rhyme & rhythm
  • To emphasize a particular point
  • It makes it easy to memorize the poem.
  • Previously, the refrain was used in old books and songs, but now it has also been used in free verse and blank verse.

Refrain meaning in music

Refrain is a term used in music to indicate that a part of the music being sung or played is to be repeated after the first time it has been performed.

In many songs, the refrain is the most recognizable part of the song, and usually consists of just one or two lines. Some songs have no refrain at all, while others may have multiple refrains.

A good example of this is Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” which has many different refrains throughout the song (the lyrics are listed below).

Examples in Poetry

“Refugee Blues” (by W.H. Auden)

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansion’s, some are living in hole’s,
Yet there is no place for us, my dear, yet there is no place for us.

Once’ we had a country and we though it fair’
Look in the atlas and you will find it there,
We can’t go there now, my dear, we can’t go there now.

In the village churchyard there grow’s and old yew
Every spring it blossoms’ a new,
Old passports can not do that, my dear, old passports cannot do that.

The consul banged the table’ and said,
if you have got no passport, you’re officially dead’,
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered’ me a chai’r;
Asked me politely’ to return next year,
But where shall we go today my dear? but where shall we go today?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said,
If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread’,
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky,
It was Hitler over Europe saying: ‘They must die,
We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind.

“Tartary” by (Walter de La Mare)

If I were Lord of Tartary,
Myself and me alone,
My bed should be of ivory
Of beaten gold my throne
And in my court should peacocks flaunt
And in my forests tigers haunt
Any in my pools great fishes slant
Their fins athwart the sun.

If I were Lord of Tartary
Trumpeters every day
To all my meals should summon me
And in my courtyards bray
And in the evening lamps should shine
Yellow as honey, red as wine
While harp, and flute, and mandolin
Made music sweet and gay.

“The Rebel” (by D.G. Enright)

When everybody has short hair
The rebel let’s his hair grow long
When everybody has long hair’
The rebel cuts his hair short.

When everybody talks’ during the lesson
The rebel does not say a word
When nobody talks during the lesson
The rebel creates’ a disturbance.

When everybody wears a uniform,
The rebel dresses’ fantastic clothes,
When everybody wear’s fantastic clothes,
The rebel dresses soberly”.

Stopping woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep”.

‘Frost’ has used a refrain in the last stanza of his poem; he repeats the second and last lines to create a rhythm to the poem and emphasize the idea of doing many things before dying.

“Disdain me not without desert” (by Thomas Wyatt)

Sometimes, a refrain serves to work out an argument in a poem, in which case it will undergo slight modifications. Here is the poem of Sir Thomas Wyatt showing the refrain:

“Disdain me not without desert,
Nor leave me not so suddenly;
Since well ye wot that in my heart
I mean ye not but honestly.
Disdain me not.

Refuse me not without cause why,
Nor think me not to be unjest;
Since that by lot of fantasy
This careful know needs knit I must.
Refuse me not.

Mistrust me not, though some thee by
That fain would spot my steadfastness;
Believe them not, since that we see
The proof is not as they express.
Mistrust me not.

Further Reading

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